Thursday, November 13, 2014

Broadway Junkie - Take Two...

On Broadway, most musicals and theatrical shows will have "previews" that are performances that allow the director and production team to make changes or for the cast to become settled in their part before the show is attended by theatre critics. Generally, you won't find much difference between a show in previews and when it is technically "opened," but much like Broadway, even The Rollins Financial Blog can at times have technical glitches. Our last blog, "Broadway Junkie," for some reason had issues with the photos not appearing in the email that was sent. We believe that everything has been fixed for this "Take Two" edition - but if not, please click here to be directed to the website to view the post and pictures completely.

From the Desk of Joe Rollins

I realize that I have not written my investment report for the month of October, which was a very volatile month on the stock market, but intend to do so later this week. In the meantime, I thought I would give you an update on my recent trip to New York, which is a lot more entertaining. Suffice it to say that the month of October, even while extraordinarily volatile, ended up being an excellent month for the financial markets. Also, November has started out strong, so we are progressing nicely into the most successful part of the year for the stock market, which is the November through May financial year. As I mentioned, I will cover each of these items at a later time.

About this time last year, I wrote 48 hours in The Big Apple. This year I made another trip to the Big Apple, not only for the Baron Investment Conference but also to attend as many Broadway plays as I could during a three day weekend. To see four Broadway shows and get the most value for my money, I attended a play on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night, along with a matinee on Saturday afternoon. Flying back to Atlanta early Sunday morning, I knew it would be a busy weekend but well worth it.

While I was there, I also had the opportunity to visit the 9/11 museum. If you have not been and ever get the opportunity to do so, you should certainly make a trip down to Lower Manhattan. They have recently opened the museum and the new 1 World Trade Center is open for business (picture below). While certainly not as impressive as the preceding twin towers, it is still pretty overwhelming if you have never seen it up close and personal.

For those of you who are not familiar with the site, they now have built two fountains that encompass the actual footprints of the towers that were destroyed in the terrorist attack. In between the two reflecting fountains, the memorial space is completely underground, while the wall that kept the Hudson River out of the original World Trade Center is exposed. Although I was very impressed by its beauty, it brought back all of the ugly memories of that fateful day, and you may rest assured, “I will never forget”- not in this lifetime!

On Thursday night, I went to see a musical that I had never seen before (which is unusual) - Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. Although I am very familiar with Carole King, I did not know she wrote “Up on the Roof” for The Drifters, one of my favorite groups in the 1960s. And who could ever forget, “(You Make Me Feel) Like a Natural Woman” by Aretha Franklin, another famous song from that era. Surprisingly, the show was excellent, and since I was so familiar with the music (from my college years), I guess it really hit close to home. Carole King’s famous album Tapestry has set kinds of records and to this day, it is one of the highest grossing albums by a female performer and one of the overall best-selling albums of all time.

During the day on Friday, I attended the annual Baron’s conference, which is always a treat. Not only is the financial part of the conference good, but it is held at the Metropolitan Opera House and always features big-name entertainment to break up the monotony of discussing the stock market. For lunch, I was somewhat surprised to see they had the entire New York Symphony Orchestra performing. There were at least 50 musicians and 20 singers to perform the songs from the famous Show Boat musical composed by Jerome Kern. While certainly beautiful and Broadway related, it is just not my cup of tea. After a short while, I left that venue and headed over to see country star Carrie Underwood perform. Given her relatively short time in the limelight, she really is an excellent performer. The concert was all Broadway mixed with Hollywood- laser lights, the entire works... And yes, it is true… she is pregnant, and it shows.

After lunch and additional meetings at the conference, they announced the famous entertainer slated to perform that afternoon. You may recall last year, the entertainment was Barbra Streisand and her orchestra. I was thinking to myself that they would never be able to outdo that one, but sure enough they did.

Ron Baron was as excited as the rest of us to announce that the entertainment for the afternoon would be Paul McCartney. And believe it or not, I sat in the very first row, less than 10 feet from one of the greatest musicians of all time. Having grown up in rural Southwest Virginia, to a very humble life, I would have never dreamed I would be afforded this opportunity. Due to their influence on my during my high school years, no one was more famous to me (and many others) than The Beatles. For years we could not believe the success and the honors that The Beatles accumulated in the United States. Who would have ever thought that forty years later I would actually be within 10 feet of Paul McCartney? He performed many of the original songs, including “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “Hey Jude”. I can report that even today, Paul McCartney at age 72, sings as well as ever. It was certainly a thrill beyond belief to see him perform so up close and personal.

After the Paul McCartney concert, I rushed back to Broadway to attend the performance of Motown. I was lucky enough to have a seat in the first row, directly in front of the stage. In fact, the conductor and I shook hands prior to and after the performance. I will not bore you with the details of revisiting the Motown play, since I discussed it last year, however, the reason I like Broadway so much is because of the sheer talent you can see up close and personal. Here, classic performers are just extraordinarily talented, young kids. They do not make millions of dollars like the stars, and in fact, are probably lucky to make $1,000 per week. It is the truest form of entertainment and by far my favorite.

I even love the old playhouses on Broadway, with their uneven floors, seats too close together, and inadequate restrooms. When they built the Marriott Marquis in Times Square, they had to tear down many of the original playhouses. This caused such a public outrage that the city of New York made all of the original playhouses “historic buildings”. Due to this historic designation, apparently playhouses cannot be renovated or updated. And despite everything wrong with these venues, I truly love them and hope they never change.

On Saturday afternoon, I went to my 11th viewing of the Jersey Boys – and am already looking forward to my 12th. This is sheer energy and talent with a bunch of unknown actors, singing songs that were recorded almost 40 years ago. There is nothing more enjoyable than to see the story unfold, surrounded by the fabulous music of The Four Seasons.

There is one scene in the musical where the character playing Frankie Valli does a solo version of “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You”. At the end of the song, the 2,000 people in attendance all stood at once to applaud; and I have never witnessed a time when the audience’s reaction was not the same after this song. The only time I have seen anything comparable to this reaction on Broadway, was when I saw Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman perform The Phantom of the Opera in 1990. In the original run of the Phantom, these two best known performers literally brought the audience to their feet when they sang the lead song. I know it is an exaggeration, but I still believe it to be true: the house shook. I have seen Phantom of the Opera at least 10 times and that was by far the best.

Finally, on Saturday night I attended the most recent version of Les Miserables. I have actually seen Les Miserables nine times, in nine different versions - including 3 times in London, once in Atlanta, and now 5 times in New York. This was an updated version and the production was pretty spectacular. Once again, young kids expressing enormous talent and no big-name performers. As the performance progressed, all I could think about was how poorly the movie was in relationship to this. It seems pretty silly that the movie was made with million-dollar actors, none of which could really sing, and here before me were these amazingly talented, young kids performing extraordinary songs while earning virtually nothing.

In summary, this was definitely a whirlwind tour of the Big Apple this trip. Four Broadway plays, Carrie Underwood, Paul McCartney, and most importantly the 9/11 museum. You could not have squeezed in an additional event over the two and a half days I was in New York.

I have been very lucky to go to a lot of wonderful different places in my lifetime. Many cities, events, and some of them truly as spectacular as this weekend was in New York. However, there is nothing that brings me more joy and as much pleasure as when I hear the flight attendent announce, “Ladies and gentlemen, we have started our descent in preparation for our arrival at Hartsfield International.” Even after an exciting, chance of a lifetime weekend, “There’s No Place Like Home.”

(Ava as Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz and her friend as the Wicked Witch of the East)

As always, the foregoing includes my opinions, assumptions and forecasts. It is perfectly possible that I am wrong.

Best regards,
Joe Rollins

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